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Eight UT students—the largest number to date—have been offered prestigious Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards for the 2017­–18 academic year to study and teach in cities around the globe.

Andrew Seidler, director of UT’s Office of National Scholarship and Fellowships, said this was a record-setting year for UT in the Fulbright Student Program, with the largest number of awards offered (eight) and semifinalists (18) in UT history.

“I’m thrilled for the students and for UT. Having this much participation and success in the Fulbright competition says a lot about how our students are increasingly seeing the Fulbright as an important and attainable pursuit,” Seidler said, noting that the last year saw 42 students—the most ever—apply for Fulbrights.

The students receiving awards are:

  • Nicholas Campbell, of Maryville, Tennessee, a senior in Hispanic studies and Latin American and Caribbean studies. He will be an English teaching assistant in Colombia. He said he considers himself a cultural ambassador for the U.S. “In a time where it seems so easy for us all to be divided, I hope to create a sense of unification . . . by sharing the affinity for learning new languages and experiencing new cultures,” he said.
  • Esther Choo, of Knoxville, a Haslam Scholar senior in anthropology with a concentration in disasters, displacement and human rights. She will be going to South Korea to analyze skeletal remains of soldiers killed during the Korean War. “This is an amazing opportunity for me, not just as an anthropology student . . . but also in understanding my identity and role as a Korean American, both personally and professionally,” she said.
  • Alina Clay, of Memphis, a senior majoring in gender, politics, and policy with a focus in Latin America and Eastern Europe through the College Scholars program. She will be collaborating with the Latvian Institute of International Affairs to research Latvia’s efforts to integrate in the European Union and NATO and establish close ties with the United States. She said the opportunity will “set into motion my long-term dream of working in that region of the world as an aspiring U.S. diplomat and fostering stronger ties between the United States and countries like Latvia that are smaller yet equally important actors within the international community.”  
  • Eric Peters, of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, a senior in economics and international business through the Global Leadership Scholars program. He will be going to Hungary to analyze third-party effects of the 2014 Russian sanctions resulting from the Crimean invasion and annexation. “The resulting report will quantify lost trade to Hungary and its allies while providing guidance about how to navigate regional politics for future trade decisions,” he said. Aspiring to build a career in the Foreign Service, Peters said he hopes to develop lasting relationships “while working alongside our Hungarian friends in the pursuit of a more unified global community.”
  • Joel Runnels, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, a doctoral student in deaf education. He will be going to Ghana to collaborate with the University of Ghana and the Ghana National Association of the Deaf to research the historical foundations of deaf education in Africa through the story of Andrew Foster, a deaf African American from Alabama who went to Africa in 1957 and stayed 30 years, launching 32 schools for the deaf across 13 nations. Runnels will be interviewing some of Foster’s students to preserve their stories. “Because most of Foster’s students are at the end of their lives, these stories would otherwise be lost,” he said.
  • Colleen Ryan, of Cookeville, Tennessee, a Haslam Scholar senior in global studies and honors sociology, who will be earning her master’s degree in postwar recovery studies at the University of York in the United Kingdom. She then plans to return to the United States to complete a joint JD–PhD program.
  • Meghan Stuart, of Johnson City, Tennessee, who is triple majoring in physics, honors math, and computer science, will be studying math at the Renyi Institute in Hungary. She also plans to pursue research in topology.

The eighth student—Alexis Burnham, of Oak Ridge, a 2016 UT graduate in animal science with minors in Hispanic studies and biological sciences—was offered a Fulbright award, but will instead complete a two-year European Union–funded fellowship in infectious diseases and One Health in France, Spain, Scotland, and Germany. Now an intern in microbial genomics at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Burnham said she wants to contribute to the understanding of zoonotic diseases (those that can be transmitted between animals and people) in livestock production in developing countries.

In addition, Jordan Bakke, of Antioch, Tennessee, a senior majoring in international development through the College Scholars program, has been named an alternate as an English teaching assistant in the Kyrgyz Republic. He could receive a Fulbright grant at a later date.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the US government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

Student Fulbright recipients are selected based on academic and professional achievement as well as service and leadership potential. UT’s recipients are among 1,900 US students who will study, conduct research, and teach abroad during the 2017–18 academic year through the Fulbright program.


Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,